Get Used to the Deuce

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Grinning nerd-rock upstarts Havilland keep their hands full on their full-length debut Get Used to the Deuce. Deftly produced by Jim Roll, the album is an open-hearted, tight-sleeved collection of startlingly clever pop songs recounting torridly innocent love affairs, gritty prison stories from the inside, vicious break-ups, and sweet middle-school crushes on girls named Sally, Lisa, Shelly, Kay, and Hazel. Borrowing stylistic points from Weezer, They Might Be Giants, Fountains of Wayne, Sloan, and Reggie & the Full Effect, vocalists Dennis Proctor and Sam Forsyth exchange frontman duties, and the whole band offers nice harmony vocals, particularly on "GGP," "Hazel to Be Near Me," and the smilingly sweet "Get In." The whole sound is anchored by Chad Roberts' heavy beats, but then totally deconstructed by the spectacular Paul Fisher's wildly skronking guitar tones. It almost sounds as if Fisher doesn't settle on a straight chord throughout the whole album -- always straining toward the jazzier diminished seventh, the discordant augmented fifth, the bent C#minor, sounding at times like raw electricity pouring off of the fretboard, countering the slyly innocent lyrics with wild and barely contained brainy riffs. This provides an intriguing dichotomy: the sugary themes of 'kissing a girl at a party' and 'getting a crush on a hitchhiker' meet the wildly dissonant guitar melodies and a sly turn of a lyric (Wait, did they say that at this high school make-out party they were watching a porno and getting it on with Stacy, Steve, and Liz and Mike?...and what makes you think that girl is probably shaved? What exactly happened at the end of that hitchhiker's ride?), leaving the listener with a vaguely unsettled feeling. Almost as if the cuddly Teddy bear you loved as a kid is discovered with a needle in its arm, or you find out that the host of your little sister's favorite Saturday morning cartoon show has a huge collection of Nazi memorabilia -- it makes the listener feel beautifully creepy. Each word nestles in next to the next with a sneaky wink, and the "ooh-ooh" backup vocals push each song into the power pop stratosphere. The bottom line is that Havilland are the smart kids in the class: owning all the right records on LP, checking out all of the Henry James and D.H. Lawrence books out of the library and never returning them, confusing the bully so that he gives them his lunch money, and conning Molly Ringwald out of her panties in the bathroom, then making out with her afterwards.

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